When in-person classes were canceled in March, staff from all facets of student life worked to offer continuity in building and retaining a sense of community for far-flung students.
Their efforts were successful, offering trivia and bingo nights over Zoom, a virtual karaoke party and self-guided marathons celebrated over social media, among other activities.
For the nine-week break between the traditional fall and spring semesters, staff are doing it again while improving on what they learned, offering a centralized calendar of activities for students to do, no matter where they are.
The Huskers Chill’N landing page and calendar are overseen by the Office of Student Affairs but represent a collaboration of many entities across campus presenting varied opportunities for connection over the long break.
“It started with a handful of departments working together to make sure that there were at least a couple of events each week throughout the break,” said Lauren Gayer, director of marketing for Student Affairs. “We wanted to make sure that students who are staying on campus and students who are at home were able to make meaningful connections.”
Student Involvement, Campus Recreation, Big Red Resilience and Well-Being, CAPS, University Housing and other units are submitting events. Also populating the calendar are events that have been regularly scheduled throughout the semester and are continuing over break, such as the Coffee Talks and Candid Conversations.
Veronica Riepe, director of Student Involvement, and her staff are keeping the calendar updated.
“The thinking is if we all work together, and we all contribute something, many hands make light work,” Riepe said. “That’s the epitome of how we approached it.”
Before planning the interim activities, Student Affairs did a survey among students to see if there was interest in in-person and virtual events over the nine-week break. About 40% said they’d like to participate in either December or January, and a resounding majority of about 70% wanted some activities open to family participation.
“That’s been neat to see during our virtual bingo nights — we’ve had whole families playing on Zoom or younger siblings joining in,” Riepe said.
Aside from the bingo and trivia nights that were offered in the spring, Riepe said her staff has also added a photo scavenger hunt contest and arranged for small groups to go to Escape Lincoln.
“We wanted to offer in-person events, too, because we have students who chose to live on campus, and we have students living in the Lincoln community,” Riepe said.
Any in-person events offered will comply with university and local directed health measures. Organizers are finalizing events for January, and they will be announced soon.